Looking for More Diversity? A Consumer Can Help. UPDATED

Diversity quilt

Let’s start with this infographic from Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards from Lee and Low Books. This information is from a study of 85 years of awards and reveals the lack of diversity in the Oscar Awards.

We, as consumers, can do something about this lack of diversity. I’ll get to how in a minute.

Diversity in The Academy Awards
Diversity in the Academy Awards infographic from Lee and Low Books. Click for full size.

The article containing this infographic talks how independent films and filmmakers can bring about change in what we see in movies. Four independent filmmakers are interviewed in the article. They talk about what they are doing and how they use crowd sourced fundraising tools like Kickstarter to get films made.

The filmmakers interviewed also talk about watching films from other countries in languages other than English. Several people talked about rejecting attempts from directors and writers to create stereotypes rather than more realistic characters.

IndieWire picked up the infographic, as I did, and wrote about it The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards in Infographic Form. This article emphasized that the box office drives which films get made.

The situation right now is that when a film with a female lead such as The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids takes the box office the Hollywood power structure is as surprised as Fox News was when President Obama was reelected in 2012. It shouldn’t be a surprise, it should be expected.

How Consumers Can Help

We, as consumers, are the ones spending the dollars at the box office. We, as consumers, are the ones choosing the channel on the TV or setting the DVR to record. What can we do to increase diversity?

Here are a few ideas.

  • Pay attention to Kickstarter or other fund raising campaigns for indie films and support them with a few bucks. It costs you $10 to go out to a movie, $20 if you buy a drink and some popcorn. Why not give that amount to a filmmaker who is struggling to create a film with a more diverse outlook and cast than what you’ll see at the local multiplex? For a while now, I’ve been promoting a Paper.li publication about Women Directors. Perhaps you’ve noticed links to it in my Twitter stream. Many times you’ll find links to fund raising campaigns mentioned in this publication. Start reading it.
  • Support indie filmmakers by watching their work. Sometimes you have to work a bit to find it. It might be shown as a web series or on Vimeo or in only one theater in your town that isn’t the biggest multiplex. Find it and go.
  • Look for stereotypes and stop supporting films and TV shows that support stereotypes. Talk about why you’re doing it on your blog or Twitter. Demand diversity.
  • Make your viewership for movies and TV shows and web series count. Make your eyeballs register numbers and stats in the places where diversity is done right.
  • Use Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu to watch foreign films of quality. There are plenty of them. You can read. Use that skill to read subtitles and you’ll see some amazing stories.

Lee and Low Books have done similar studies of The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and US politics. Thanks to them for organizing this information and making accessible visuals to help us understand the stats.

UPDATE

The Representation Blog published The Representation Test on 2/28/2014. This is a downloadable test that,

. . . gives films points for representations of people which avoid harmful and limiting stereotypes, as well as for having diversity behind-the-camera. There are 27 possible points in the test, but any film scoring 11 or above receives an “A” for representation.

Downloading and using this test, and talking about your scores in public places such as your blog and Twitter is another good way that you as a consumer can help change the status quo. You may want to to check back for new versions of the test from time to time, because the creators say it will evolve over time.

Image credit: Diversity Quilt via Flickr.

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